The crux of Mr. Segal’s abilities can be exhumed with finality and elegance in the first five lines of the novel. He is a man of insightful, if not conniving, brilliance and a quiet loftiness that is not altogether uncommon in a humbling intellectuality overwhelmed with poise and reflection. A novella in its ulterior avatar, Love Story was a passionate debut for Harvard spittle Erich Segal; a radical phenomenon in its time, to be further adapted to a runaway marquee chartbuster, it still persists intractably to entice mellow, yielding minds with poignancy, charm and its own maverick zest of pizzazz, to let savor a subversive love that flouts social conventions and moreover, survives their prejudice. Notching itself a transcendent stead, one-up on all ‘Mills and Boons’ and ‘Danielle Steele’s dovetailed and multiplied, or being less contentious, in a league of its own, Love Story though has had strong, stalwart contenders, homely ever-favorites like ‘Thorn Birds’ and ‘Bridges of Madison County’, but the pure, uncorrupt dramatic stability of Love Story is unscathed, indisputable, invulnerable.
Love Story is, best phrased, a well-assorted ‘house of mirrors and illusions’. The characterization is poor, the character development is fantastic; the prose is slack and often, painful, but it succors to a surging climactic efflorescence; the dialogues are unconventional, but concomitantly, unconventionally good; the climax is actually an anti-climax, is grotesquely saddening, heart-rending, and all of it is damningly intelligently plotted.
From the prima facie, through the serial affair of dating, to the complex-made-concise conundrums and imbroglios of relationships, both platonic and affectionate, to the ultimate reconciliations, unlike most fiction that suffers and ails from the classical genital pitfalls and setbacks of plastic, cocky emotion, over-the-top kitsch and a biting tang of schmaltz, Love Story denies the reader of the usual satisfactions and narrates to him of a little yarn of love with a polite and non-descript-seeming remarkable realism that is the book’s forte and fountainhead of unrivaled rapture.
It is with switchblade-sharp cunning and elaborate professionalism that Segal pens the story of an influential, striking jock, Oliver Barret IV and a humdrum, run of the mill, middling Radcliffe beauty Jennifer Cavilleri. Oliver is of elitist roots: Jenny is a working-class girl; Oliver is the quintessential playboy: Jennifer is the quintessential romantic; Oliver is trying to escape the yokes of his background: Jenny tries savagely to mend them; Extremities in every measure and still in endearing love, seems to occupy the first fraction of the illusions where the reader believes in the strength of the bonding irrespective of the contingencies, he is coerced to reckon the single stale possibility of ‘love conquering all’.
The second mildly fathomable illusion lies in the fact of the base of the bonding. Throughout the novel, or the novella if you’d rather, the motive of the dialogues has been to establish a realm of informality and a novel and absolute form of loss of inhibition between the newly weds. This further corresponds to the aesthetic nature and deportment of the relationship, making it independent instead of volatile, and resolute instead of shabby and inchoate. As Rushdie explicated, “What is the freedom of expression? It cannot be defined without the freedom to offend.” The intercourses are so rare a breed, well ripened, and abide such an atypical sense of maturity that the reader is enticed by the simplicity and foundation of what the liaison represents. Usage of expletive, slandering, slurring lexis like ‘bitch’ for a wife and a similar manner of addressing a husband is a connotative verdict of closure, a logical sense of entirety in love that renders the common receptive policy of such meaningless things as petite, trifling and inconsequential.
The third and final illusion is of the method. The method conveys in every way, a mutiny; a mutiny that leaves them in a vital interdependence more indispensable than ever, and relays to the reader that the lovers are united in a segregation as outcasts from society, banished for to have provoked social norms and wreaked them futile, and it is to a reader’s unconscious realization, a happiness beleaguered by an impending pathos. Oliver Barret and Jenny Cavilleri wed against the caveat and admonishings of Oliver’s father, are ousted from or exiled of his fortune, live a low, destitute life at the infancy of their marriage, eschew the stock marital conventions of the mores and approach matrimony through a mode that suggests of nothing but the sanctity, chastity and virtue of such an alliance.
Segal composes this in the prime of his abilities, in the heydays of his fiction and the zenith of the ambit of his imagination; a compulsive string of bestsellers by Erich Segal were to ensue past Love Story, for instance, the inimitable ‘Doctors’, ‘Oliver’s Story’, ‘Acts of Faith’, ‘Man, woman and child’ etc. but none could complement the appeal and pulchritude of a novel unsullied by literary fireworks, a story that declared nothing more that the arrant scope of its moniker.
The essence of Love Story can perhaps also be credited to its brevity. Where longer, languishing novels needlessly drag on, blundering ungainly along the fringes of squeamish, unrealistic and despicable fiction hulking with tedium and ennui, Segal said it in a softer, gentler note, almost a whisper, with venerate consideration and reverence, square-rooted of the impertinence and callow naiveté. Segal insouciantly gainsaid his readers the contentment of a Herculean narrative (an arena in which he proved his keen prowess through the colossal seven-hundred pager ‘Doctors’), and instead conferred a frivolous assay at the flippantness and greenness of young love, its travails, predicaments, quandaries, and sublime moments of bliss and unsettling wonder, that surprise, enthrall, enthuse and agitate from the nimblest to the jaded minds.
Love Story remains, till date and hitherto, an unmatched endeavor, wooing sycophantically the young dreams of virgin vagrants in the valleys of tempestuous love, a redolent hallmark of the underpinnings of a generation past us and a famed font of a splendid ilk of non-religious divinity that men cannot escape and women cannot circumvent, and the world cannot help but let prosper.